Sunday, June 8, 2008

Round Trip Pt.1

I took a train headed west from Mississippi on my way to Los Angeles to visit my kinfolk. I figured I should check out New Orleans.

New Orleans is a world apart. Always has been. Everything blew my mind- the people, the food, the music, the history, the architecture, the destruction.

My old friend, Katie Mcdonnell, from New York, happened to be in New Orleans with a Yoga project she's developing. Their goal is to help improve the overall health of the citizens and workers rebuilding the city.

I stayed a couple of nights in the huge barracks just outside of town. I think Habitat For Humanity runs it.

Had an awesome brunch with the Irish Mafia of New Orleans.
Katie's been coming down here for many years and might soon make a permanent move. Amanda's a local mademoiselle who's into theater, fine food, and action .

I was very pleased to see, all the way from Brooklyn, the Honorable Stacy Mohammed, a hardy old soul and a fine painter.

They gave me the grand tour. Starting at the dark patch of wall where the water came through, fanning out in all directions, there's desolation for miles and ghostlike spaces.

You can't comprehend the magnitude of the catastrophe until you see this place in the flesh. People go on and on about 911. Twice as many people died on that day for sure, But I'm afraid this Katrina thing is way way bigger. You gotta factor in the thousands displaced and the sick and elderly. Seems it's all fading from view.

Not to despair. People have held to their sense of humor. And organizations are springing up everywhere to promote rejuvenation and renaissance. It's a relief not to see the endless sentimentalizing that goes on around 911 culture. Folks here are getting to work. There's enthusiasm and good old-fashioned hope.

The media would have you believe New Orleans has recovered and it's "back". Nothing could be further from reality but when you meet an individual like Mack McClendon here, a real live New Orleans Saint, you can start to believe that Katrina has pushed New Orleans into the vanguard of American renewal.

Mack founded The Lower Ninth Ward Village. It's a massive effort to reboot this almost totally decimated area. Mack's charisma and passion have drawn people from all points of the globe. Hang out with Mack for half an hour and you'll be figuring a way to somehow pitch in.

New Orleans remains a jewel; a rare gem in America. It's like no other city. There's no comparison. Everybody should come to New Orleans.

I found a pile of Mardi Gras beads in some rubble. They were shiny and nice. I grabbed a few and went on my way.